You have to have either a death wish or serious faith in a
former wood pellet salesman from upstate New York to jump into
Paul Ceglia's Facebook ownership case at this point.
As we've reported, exhaustively, Ceglia's claim to own half
of Mark Zuckerberg's stake in the soon-to-be-public social media
behemoth rests on a contested 2003 contract Zuckerberg signed
when he worked on some software code for Ceglia as a Harvard
undergraduate. Faced with the ruthless defense mounted by
Facebook's lawyers at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, at least four
firms - including DLA Piper -- have withdrawn from Ceglia's
team. Ceglia himself has been hit with a $5,000 sanction for
discovery failures and is on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars in Gibson, Dunn fees. Gibson, Dunn, moreover, has made
it pretty clear that it's scrutinizing Ceglia's lawyers for
representing the validity of a contract Facebook considers an
None of that has dissuaded Sanford Dumain, the chairman of
Milberg. "We took a good hard look at all of the information
available, including evidence in Mr. Ceglia's favor, and we
believe he deserves to have his day in court," Dumain said in a
statement. "We look forward to examining records from computers
that Mr. Zuckerberg used when he was a freshman at Harvard and
other records that will help answer questions about the
ownership of Facebook. We hope that the court will rule that the
time has come for that process to begin."
Through a Milberg spokesman, I sent Dumain questions about
Gibson, Dunn's assertion that Ceglia's 2003 contract is a
forgery and that the firm has located the original, which makes
no mention of Facebook, in an email Ceglia allegedly sent from
his parents' computer to Sidley Austin. Dumain declined to
answer specific questions but said in an email response, "We
look forward to a vigorous discovery process that will enable us
to examine all of the relevant information available."
Dumain will be working with Dean Boland of Boland Legal, who
came aboard for Ceglia in November. Boland has told us that the
recent sanction order against Ceglia, which came out of
expedited discovery against Ceglia, clears up issues from before
he got into the litigation. He said that once Ceglia is
permitted to obtain discovery from Zuckerberg, the case will
look very different. Boland has also questioned why Facebook and
Gibson Dunn have not moved to dismiss the case, which was
supposed to be the goal of expedited discovery.
Dumain's statement raises the same question. "Defense
counsel previously told the court and media that Facebook would
move to dismiss this case, so we are pleased that the judge has
scheduled a conference to address the deadlines for the
commencement and completion of discovery," Dumain's statement
said. "It should be up to a jury to weigh the contradictory
claims, including evidence that supports Mr. Ceglia's case, such
as his e-mail correspondence with Mr. Zuckerberg and experts'
testimony about the authenticity of the contract."
Boland told me Monday that Milberg thoroughly vetted the
evidence before signing on with Ceglia. "They saw the lack of
any experts on Facebook's side who contradict our experts who
have found the contract to be authentic," he said. "As soon as
Milberg determined that, they said they were going to join us
and bring all their resources to bear."
Orin Snyder of Gibson, Dunn declined to comment.
(Reporting by Alison Frankel)
Follow Alison on Twitter: @AlisonFrankel
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